'A Town, A Team, An American Tragedy'

Mar 02, 2020

South Carolina State University head coach Buddy Pough speaks to audience members and fellow panel members William Hine, Jim Fabio, Bobby Kennedy and Thomas Kennerly. Pough and fellow panel members discussed the film “Orangeburg: A Town, A Team, An American Tragedy.” (Photo special to The Panther by Bradley Harris of The Times and Democrat. Harris is a former editor of The Panther)

South Carolina State University on Feb. 7 hosted a showing of the film “Orangeburg: A Town, A Team, An American Tragedy."

Award-winning filmmaker Jim Fabio's work remembers one of the nation’s most horrific tragedies of the Civil Rights Movement.  

The Orangeburg Massacre occurred on Feb. 8, 1968, at S.C. State when state highway patrolmen opened fire on 200 unarmed African American protesters. The shooting took place in the wake of protesters trying to desegregate All Star Bowling Lanes in downtown Orangeburg. S.C. State students Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond Jr., and Delano Middleton, a local high school student, were killed and 28 others were left wounded.

The film gives the background of the tragedy and survivors of the incident played a major role in speaking throughout the documentary. The survivors explained what started the protest, what took place once the shots were fired into the crowd and how their lives were affected afterward. The three men who were fatally shot were also remembered for their personalities and athleticism.

Fabio said he became aware of the Orangeburg Massacre after reading an article in the New York Times seven years ago.

“Two things struck me ... one I had never heard of the Orangeburg Massacre and consider myself a student of history, particularly American history, and two, I got my start as a filmmaker as a lieutenant in the Air Force," Fabio told the audience at the showing.  "I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in the Lowcountry and again I was surprised I had never heard of the Orangeburg Massacre, but certainly I had heard of Orangeburg.

"But the events of that week of 1968, as a storyteller, I thought this is an amazing story and if given the opportunity, I would like to tell the unformed."

Fabio’s film was picked up by the NFL Network and  aired in September 2019. It focuses on the role of student athletes in the protests, specifically the roles of several football players, including Hammond.

After the showing of the film, a discussion was held with Fabio, S.C. State football coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough, survivors of the Orangeburg Massacre and more.

“Football players in 1968 were demonstrating as part of the larger protest for what was occurring in Orangeburg in 1967 and 1968,” said Pough, who speaks in the film about the important role athletes play at HBCUs.

“Athletes have the opportunity to do things sometimes on campuses that others don’t have an opportunity to do.  If you’ve got the ability to actually do something positive for your school or community for whatever route that you want to represent that way or issue of some sort that you have some kind of strong feeling about, then at that point it's your job to go ahead and say something about that particular situation," Pough said. 

"As a football coach, I don’t have the right to tell a young man, you don’t have the right to say something about something, especially things that we all know are right and true,” Pough said.

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